Among the mantras that feature in wind industry propaganda is the line about Australians being all in favour of renewable energy.
That may well be.
However, the wind cult are having a hard time convincing the thousands of South Australians who are often left sitting freezing or boiling in the dark – whenever wind power output collapses on a routine, total and totally unpredictable basis – that its fleet of whirling wonders represents any kind of future, at all.
And now it seems that, despite the ‘love’ they are purported to have professed to pollsters, the vast majority of Australians are not prepared to pay one red cent more for that warm fuzzy feeling that is said to come from knowing that your fridge, air-conditioner and giant flatscreen TV is being run on either sunshine or breezes.
Newspoll: 45 per cent won’t pay more for energy renewables
David Crowe and Sarah Martin
28 February 2017
Voters have rung the alarm on the hit to household budgets from a shift to renewable power, with 45 per cent declaring they should not pay a cent more to make the change, amid a furious political fight over energy security.
A special Newspoll conducted exclusively for The Australian also finds that 26 per cent of voters are only willing to pay $10 a month at the most for solar and wind power, sending a warning shot over ambitious renewable energy targets.
The poll comes as Malcolm Turnbull escalates his attack on Bill Shorten over Labor’s “aspiration” to generate half the nation’s electricity from renewables by 2030, with the government claiming Labor policy would add $400 a year to household bills.
But the Prime Minister is being challenged internally over the government’s policy to mandate 23.5 per cent renewable energy within three years; Tony Abbott is calling for the target to be scrapped to ease cost pressures on consumers.
With all sides in dispute over the impact of renewables on electricity prices and reliability, the government had a surprise boost yesterday when the Clean Energy Finance Corporate revealed a proposal for a new coal-fired power station.
The government’s green bank, charged with investing $10 billion in energy projects, told a Senate hearing that a private company was seeking a government subsidy to build a $1.2bn, 900-megawatt coal-fired station.
However, CEFC chief executive Oliver Yates told Senate estimates the agency had not seen “significant appetite” from the private sector to finance high-efficiency, low-emissions coal generation. He also said that without major changes to CEFC’s investment mandate, the agency would be economically “challenged” by the future risk of a carbon price and unlikely to receive government support.
While Labor and the Greens believe voters want more wind and solar power to combat climate change, the Newspoll shows an overwhelming majority of voters are unwilling to pay a premium for the transition.
Asked how much more they would be willing to pay for renewables annually, 45 per cent said nothing, 26 per cent said $100 and 11 per cent said $300.
In Newspoll’s survey of 1682 voters from Thursday to Sunday, 4 per cent said they would pay $500 more annually for renewable power, 2 per cent backed a $1000 annual premium and 11 per cent were uncommitted.
Mr Turnbull claimed the Labor aspiration, which includes an emissions intensity scheme to put a price on carbon output from the electricity sector, was “utterly unrealistic” and would require a $48bn cost, based on public statements about the investment required to reach the goal.
“You see the train wreck that it produced in South Australia — that type of ideological approach to energy, the most expensive and the least reliable electricity,” the Prime Minister said.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg mocked Labor’s target during question time yesterday, contrasting differing opposition claims about whether it would need to legislate to reach its target.
Labor said last year there would be “legislation relating to the 2030 target of 50 per cent renewable energy generation” as part of its policy.
But Mr Shorten said last week the 50 per cent goal was not an extension of the existing RET: “It’s not something that we will need to legislate, because we are confident Australia will achieve it.”
Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler attacked the “misleading” government claims by pointing to the Australian Energy Market Commission conclusion that an emissions intensity scheme would save about $15bn over the next decade, compared to doing nothing to reduce emissions.
Mr Butler blamed rising power prices over the past decade on “very significant network investment in the poles and wires” across the country.
Scott Morrison dismissed Mr Abbott’s call to scrap the 23.5 per cent target, which is legislated and bipartisan. The Treasurer warned of a hit to investment from changing a policy set less than two years ago, raising sovereign risk issues.
The AEMC has warned of price rises in most parts of the country over the next two years, saying renewables and higher gas prices would contribute to this.
Australian Energy Council chief Matthew Warren said the industry was grappling with the true long-term cost of renewables.
“If you want to provide lower emissions generation, it will cost more,” he said.
The Australia Institute released a ReachTel poll yesterday showing 54.5 per cent of voters in the Queensland seat of Dawson — held by the Liberal National Party’s George Christensen — backed a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. The poll did not ask about cost.
Funny how it is that moral posturing and virtue signalling soon gives way when one’s own hard-earned currency is in play.
In last night’s post we talked about another wind cult paradox, namely the claim that, notwithstanding the need for massive and endless subsidies, wind power is ‘free’ and getting cheaper all the time.
The moral of the story about the boy who cried wolf is not that he told a lie, it’s that he told the same lie twice.
If your propaganda wing keeps pumping out the story that adding big volumes of wind power capacity to the grid (as has occurred in South Australia, Denmark and Germany, for example) will lower retail power bills, it becomes a little difficult to unscramble the PR egg when the reverse is the result.
South Australians, the Danes and Germans are in the top five when it comes to the highest retail power prices in the world.
Power prices matter at every level: economic, social and, increasingly in Australia, at the political level.
The results of the Newspoll provide the Federal government with the perfect opportunity to stop talking and start acting about the single biggest cause of Australia’s rocketing power prices: the Large-Scale RET.
Now that it is evident that 70% of Australians do not want to pay any more than $10 a month to support wind and solar (and 45% want to pay nothing), Malcolm Turnbull can get on and do what must be done: scrap the LRET now.
A policy which is destroying Australia’s once secure, reliable and affordable power supply (refer South Australia’s wind power disaster) and which Australians have no interest in paying for is hardly an election winner.
The Australian makes the point as well as any.
Energy debate provides an opportunity for Turnbull
28 February 2017
With Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott in open warfare and Newspoll providing only discouragement for the Coalition, it was no surprise the government tried to focus on energy policy yesterday.
The Prime Minister knows Labor’s plan to more than double the nation’s renewable energy target by 2030 would be a disaster for power costs and security.
High prices, blackouts and load-shedding in South Australia have provided a live example of what Bill Shorten’s plan might mean for the nation. Mr Turnbull has referred to Labor’s “ideological obsession” with renewable energy, promising a climate approach that is “technology-agnostic”.
Yet this is not the case under existing policy where renewables are subsidised to a mandatory share of 23 per cent of national electricity supply, meaning there will be further investment of about $10 billion over the next three years to increase clean generation by about half. So for now, and increasingly into the future, electricity will be less secure and more expensive than it otherwise would be because of the RET. It is just that Labor’s plan would make it even worse after 2020.
The Newspoll results published today — showing almost three quarters of consumers either want to pay no extra for renewables or less than $2 a week — bolster the Turnbull government’s argument. It claims that existing policies will add an average of $63 to annual bills which is too much for 45 per cent of Newspoll respondents and close to enough for a further 26 per cent. Labor’s plans will rile the majority.
Yet nothing in the Coalition’s current approach, aside from rhetoric, brings this stark policy difference to the fore. The current RET settings have bipartisan support.
This is why Mr Abbott’s suggestion to attempt to cap the RET makes policy and political sense; it would put a lid on the single most disruptive force in the national energy market as well as bring on the political debate. It would also demand explanations about how or whether Australia would meet its Paris carbon emissions reductions target. This would be timely given doubts about the US approach under Donald Trump.
Mr Shorten is shamelessly doing all he can to create a fight over penalty rates despite the major parties having a similar approach on the issue until the Fair Work Commission handed down its findings last week. Not only did Labor establish the FWC and demand it conduct reviews of penalty rates but Mr Shorten repeatedly said he would abide by its decisions. Not any more — Mr Shorten and Labor have moved to put up a bill to override the decision.
This is pure politics. For all the hypocrisy of the Opposition Leader’s move (as a union leader he traded away penalty rates to companies that donated to his union) he has chosen a fight on his preferred ground. No matter what it means for business and jobs growth, Labor is placing itself on the side of protecting existing pay rates and blaming the Coalition for wage cuts. This will be a powerful argument for Labor all the way till the election. It also shows the Coalition a bit about product differentiation.
Recent days have shown the Prime Minister must do better even just to pacify his own team. He needs to set the agenda and concentrate the debate on Coalition strengths, which happen to be some of the highest national priorities: budget repair and welfare, taxation and federation reform. Instead of endless compromises made in negotiating away contentious issues, it might be time Mr Turnbull and his government became more ambitious and gave the nation the serious policy debates it requires.